As the initial draft of this column is written, we are careening down the highway returning from a highly successful Indy Chamber Leadership Exchange with the City of Nashville, Tenn. Certainly, these trips afford much learning about the specifics of how another community manages to pay for stadiums, deal with crime and a plethora of other matters. And as important as the many PowerPoints and classes attended, the exchanges allow for much deeper connections to be formed with members of our own delegations. Time together away from the routine of daily life, permits a more clear-headed and attentive interaction.
Having been privileged to participate in more than a handful of these kinds of conversations these many decades, some common themes emerge. Economic development is difficult and must be pursued with a steady and innovative hand. Education is difficult and must be pursued with a steady and innovative hand. Public safety is difficult and must be pursued with a steady and innovative hand.
But also, the way in which a community conceives of itself matters. Many were eager to claim that Nashville is not for rednecks. What we saw supported this supposition. I was reminded of the many encounters with our own community leaders who seemed to start each conversation that “Indianapolis is not for hicks.” Likewise, this supposition is correct. But why do we, both great towns, start our dialogue from a defensive posture? The first day of law school, promptly after we are taught how to bill in six-minute increments, we are instructed that whoever frames the issue wins the case. Experience has proven this right over and again. Could we create an impression of our home that asserts who we believe we are instead of defending against who others might imagine us to be? Is a good offense the best defense?